Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Jim Shipley
Shipley speaks 

Nation-state law: Good for the Jews?


August 31, 2018

It’s an old story and has resonance probably only for people of a certain age whose life made it almost necessary to look at everything through the “I am a Jew” lens. Back in 1969, When I told my 93-year-old immigrant grandmother “Bubby! We just landed a man on the moon!” She replied, “Oh. Is that good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?”

Well, we’ve come a ways since then. But, Israel... yeah, Israel. Not as simple as it used to be. When the State became a reality in 1948, Jews around the world rejoiced. We, the People of the Book were back in their land, the land of the Book—never to leave again.

Of course, there were those who did not rejoice. Arabs who fled their homes as war loomed. Arabs from around the Middle East who were determined that Jews could never have their own nation back. Various religious sects than never could figure why Jews didn’t just convert.

Israel had a left wing almost-Socialist government, a small population, a small army and huge debts. Jews around the world responded. The country grew. It assimilated Jews thrown out of Arab countries after centuries of being contributing, patriotic citizens of those countries.

It educated its populace, united them under a single language: Hebrew, the language of the Jewish people.

When America declared its independence, they sat down and wrote a constitution. And, we have been re-writing it ever since as we have grown and diversified. Israel has no constitution. It does have a bunch of basic laws. Most of which make great sense for a Jewish country re-establishing itself. Some however, do defy logic and the wishes of the majority of the population.

Today, the government of Israel is more “right” than “left.” But with the diversity of parties, coalition is the only practical way to get things done—an art we have lost in America.

Let’s see if we can figure out how close Israel is to America. The United States of America is a diverse nation—designed as such. We needed immigrants. We had to fill an expanding nation with people. So we created the most unique, diverse nation on earth.

Israel is diverse. There are Jews there from every corner of the earth. Israel is the land of THE JEWISH PEOPLE. It is not the land of the Orthodox Jew or the Conservative Jew or any other type of specific Jew. It is the land of the JEWISH PEOPLE. That too is open to some type of interpretation. Does that include the black Jews of Ethiopia? The Jews discovered in Northern India? How far back do we have to go?

But, as we understand it, there is some DNA work that has proven the validity of these claims from various corners of the world. So, we have a history thousands of years older than the U.S. And, it makes sense that our people, having been sent into a Diaspora, would turn up in some wildly diverse corners. But, once they are there and their Jewish roots have been verified they are citizens of the Jewish Nation.

Israel as we said, has a language. So, under the new law, Hebrew is the official language. The U.S. has a language: A form of English. Not original, but it works. Do the people of Israel speak different languages? Of course. There is Arabic and Druze and English and Spanish and Russian and ... but as in the U.S., eventually as generations change, everybody will be speaking Hebrew.

The early Jewish immigrants to America from Eastern Europe spoke Yiddish. Their culture was built around it. From the food they ate to the newspapers they read to the radio to which they listened.

Their children spoke Yiddish in the home and English on the street. In many homes the same pattern emerges today. In Spanish speaking homes, in Arabic speaking homes, in Moroccan homes—well, you get the idea.

So, the similarity between our young nation and the much older yet newer nation of Israel are apparent. There is one huge difference: In America there is total freedom of religion and religion has no place in government.

In Israel? Well... let’s save that for another time.


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